September 14, 2006. This page contains all major reports and comment pieces in the current edition.

The location of one hapless social engineering effort to curb the grog mayhem in Alice Springs may well become the scene for another.
The objective is to make people who come to town and spend lots of money on grog, and none on their lodgings in the creeks, to stay in alcohol-free accommodation and pay money for it.
The omens last Saturday were not good.
The building of the defunct Tyeweretye Social Club was a gloomy backdrop as Mayor Fran Kilgariff (ALP) and Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough (Liberal) strolled through its expansive grounds, adjoining the dog pound and Blatherskite Park show grounds.
That morning Mr Brough had fired a broadside at Chief Minister Clare Martin, Ms Kilgariff’s political mentor, and a necessary partner in this latest brave alcohol initiative, but curiously absent.
Yet this did not seem to dampen Mr Brough’s enthusiasm to build “at least two” itinerant camps, showing a lot more commitment  – financial and emotional – to solving Alice’s number one problem than Ms Martin, who the day before was sniping at Mr Brough from Mutitjulu, in the shadow of Ayers Rock.
“The people of Mutitjulu have asked [Mr Brough] to visit them and explain why the community has been starved of funds since July 1,” Ms Martin said.
Despite her latest flurry of concern for Mutitjulu she still hasn’t confirmed nor denied having known since November 2004 about child rape, rampant petrol sniffing and malnutrition in the community, as reported in the Alice News on August 17.
“The community of Mutitjulu has called on the Federal Government to restore funding and appoint a locally based CEO immediately,” said Ms Martin. 
“The people of Mutitjulu are angry that an administrator appointed by the Federal Government is trying to run the community from Perth.”
Only three hours before his stroll with Ms Kilgariff Mr Brough told media: “Clare Martin’s comments were wrong, they border on the absurd.
“There is no cutting of funding. In fact it was the Northern Territory, Minister McAdam, who was concerned about the community as well, and was looking at the appointment of an administrator,” said Mr Brough.
“There is an administrator there.
“I didn’t appoint him. The administrator was appointed by the appropriate authorities.
“That is now before the courts.
“I want to stress to the people of Mutitjulu and the Northern Territory that the Commonwealth has not cut funding to Mutitjulu.
“The Chief Minister was either mischief making, was plainly wrong or was poorly advised.
“Her comments need to be retracted.”
It’s been a rough road to the itinerants camps so far in other respects as well.
Mr Brough asked the NT Government to identify sites in Alice Springs where camps could be built – possibly more than two – to cater for, as he put it, “up and over 2000 people at different times” with  “hundreds” of places needed at any one time.
The town council wasn’t told about this although it had some time ago identified sites in a survey of its own.
When the list was made public it caused an uproar because some sites were near residential areas and one adjacent to a bottle shop.
Not surprisingly Mr Brough was busy placating the public.
He said on Saturday there will be “definitely more than one site, at least one in the north and one in the south, but that’s not to say we wouldn’t have more than two sites.”
Mr Brough humbly described this as a “directive from traditional owners, the Lhere Artepe people when I was here before.
“I made it very clear you don’t have camping grounds in the middle of a CBD [nor] in the middle of a suburb.
“You need space. So that counts out a lot of those areas that were looked at in the report commissioned by the [NT] lands department.”
What distance from residential areas would he nominate?
“We’ll look at all of these things ... everyone has a say and we’ll discuss each individual site on its merits.
“The [NT] Government is doing some more with hostels ... and of course people can stay in mainstream commercial accommodation as well.”
He says “ free isn’t an option for the itinerants camps and they will be “self-sustaining”: his government will pay for capital works and then “a commercial lease will operate”, either by private enterprise or an NGO such as Tangentyere.
The question remains, what will motivate the hundreds of illegal public drinkers and illegal public campers, the scourge of the town for decades, to mend their ways, stop drinking and pay for commercial lodgings?
The task will be even tougher than now: currently drunks are taken to sobering up shelters where they are staying for free.
In the Brough camps the cops driving the paddy wagons will need to say something like: “Sir, we’ve arrived at the transient camp now. Do you have $30 to pay for the night?”
Says Mr Brough: “It will not work if the by-laws aren’t policed but I’m absolutely confident they will be.”
Who’s given him that assurance, because the laws and by-laws haven’t been enforced in the last 15 years?
“There’s been no capacity [to house the itinerants],” says Mr Brough.
“The laws exist, and policing of the laws that currently exist will be possible one these sorts of places are operating.
“And at that stage you really have to have a zero tolerance towards people dossing in the river or camping anywhere.
“It’s not on.
“I’m not having a go at the current or the previous councils at all, [but] where is the capacity to house 2000 or 3000 people?
“It hasn’t been there.
“Maybe you’d like to take this up with the Mayor. She knows the problem and is willing to be part of the solution.”
So far the council has been reluctant to take decisive action, partly because of workplace safety issues for staff. .
Last Saturday Ms Kilgariff said: “When there are hostels there will be places whereas now there are none.
“People are camping in the river. There is nowhere to take them.
“Short-term accommodation where they have to pay and which is alcohol free should provide us with an alternative.”
Given that some people come here to drink and are not inclined to spend money on accommodation, wouldn’t she have to show a great deal of muscle to force a change?
In the past there has been a concern about putting by-laws officers in harm’s way. Will that change?
Ms Kilgariff: “It will require close cooperation between the police and ourselves, as it always has, for the people who actually want to be in the creek and drinking ... but at least we’ll be able to move those people on.”
And the council will be moving them on?
“Yes, we will.”
The Tyeweretye Social Club, the site clearly favored by Mr Brough for the “southern” camp, was one of many expensive initiatives to combat alcohol abuse and its effects.
The idea was to provide a safe place for Aboriginal people to drink on premises. In 1992 the club sued the Territory Liquor Commission for not granting a license, and told the Supreme Court that the “defendant failed to have any, or sufficient, regard to the wishes of the community”.
In 1994 the Race Discrimination Commissioner Zita Antonios  said: “An example of an initiative which would accord with the objectives of Living with Alcohol is the proposed Tyeweretye Social Club ... limits on availability [of alcohol] are unlikely to be an effective practical solution ... dress regulations bar most Aboriginal people, particularly town campers and bush dwellers, from almost all licenced premises ... unreasonable objections to the community initiative ... could potentially amount to discriminatory behaviour.”
The club subsequently got its license but made little if any impact on offensive public drinking: the club served light beer only, not the beverage of choice for problem drinkers.
There were massive brawls outside the venue, people were drinking cheap wine, and repeatedly up to a dozen police cars rushed there with sirens screaming.
Some three years ago Tyeweretye shut its doors for good.
Some visitors to town are accommodated by Aboriginal Hostels in its four properties across town, all of them full, according to general manager Keith Clarke. Two are for visitors in town for medical reasons, and one of these, Topsy Smith Hostel in Renner Street, will soon be closed for redevelopment from a 20-bed to a 40-bed facility. 
Mr Clarke says a bed, which may be in a share room, costs $21 a night, including continental breakfast, sandwiches for lunch and a substantial evening meal.

The top place getters in the Wildfoods / Bushfoods competition between them would make a sensational, uniquely Australian gourmet meal. 
It would go like this:
As a starter: Witchetty Swags by Rorey McLeod. The 16 year old entered as a Young Foodie but took out second place in the open domestic category and third in the people’s choice. He served up witchetty grub (which he harvested himself) with capsicum slivers, wrapped in spinach and filo pastry. Delicately flavoured, good texture, a genuinely delicious introduction (for me) to eating witchetty. And what a great Central Australian name and concept! 
Entree: Twice Baked Barra and Lemon Myrtle Souffle. This topped the professional category for Nerys Purdie of Oscars. The lemon myrtle and barra flavours in fine balance, this was also lovely to hold in the mouth – light and tasty. And Purdie achieved an appealing bush food aesthetic with her presentation, featuring a lemon myrtle leaf, standing up like a feather in a hat.
People’s choice gave her equal second place.
Main:  Rainforest Plum Kangaroo. Jonathan Zuniga of Bluegrass restaurant took second place in the professional category  and first in the people’s choice for this succulent roo with a rainforest plum sauce. The meat and fruit in seductive competition on the palette made this a dish to really savour.
Dessert: Mille Feuille and Sambucca Quandong Compote.
Third place getter in the professional category, Steen Gundesen from The Lane also found a way to get a dance going in your mouth, between the appealing crunch of light pastry and nuts and the full fruity flavour of the compote.
A second or alternative dessert: Candlenut and wattleseed praline with lemon myrtle tropical fruits. This topped the domestic category for Kate Polglase. The light bush food flavours of the praline, which looked great broken into large shards, still allowed the individual tastes of the fresh fruit to come through.
Liqueur: Bush Tomato Vodka. Nic Hempel took third place in the domestic category and second in the people’s choice for this brilliant idea. He simply steeped the bush tomatoes in the vodka and served. The strong fruity yet not at all sweet taste and somewhat bitter aftertaste of the bush tomato is really suited to the liqueur experience.
I had the pleasure of being one of the judges in the competition – nice work if you can get it!  It ran over three heats held at Afghan Traders and then a finals last Saturday at Kungkas Can Cook.
Judges were looking for presentation, originality, presence of bushfoods/ wildfoods, aroma and taste, and overall impression. The people voted for their favourite.
There was fairly strong accord between the judges and the people, with one exception. The people gave top prize to Michael La Flamme for his “Gecko’s Revenge”, while the judges, dominated by professional chefs, gave it bottom place in the domestic category. The dish was a simple sausage in a bun, quite tasty but not out of the ordinary until you knew what was in it – wildcat!
Interestingly, while the majority of plates were all but licked clean at the end of the competition there was still plenty of the Gecko’s Revenge left. It seems that the people embrace La Flamme’s message on feral animals with their hearts and minds but not quite with their mouths and stomachs.
So will we soon see some of the excellent culinary inventions of the competition in restaurants around town? Beat Keller , one of the competition organisers, says Bluegrass and Oscars have both indicated that they will be putting their entries on their menus. And The Lane has Gundesen’s Mille Feuille on its special board this week.
Meanwhile Afghan Traders stock a number of bushfood ingredients and delicacies, including a wattleseed dessert syrup, commercialised by Serendipity in collaboration with Outback Bush Foods, a small local wholesaler run by Peter Yates. The  wattleseed in the syrup is harvested by Aboriginal women from Epenarra, north of Alice Springs.

A robust dose of lateral thinking is needed to solve the problems of The Centre, says Elliot McAdam, the new Minister for Central Australia.
That includes job creation on black communities by taking advantage of simplified 99 year land leases on Aboriginal country, and the involvement of private enterprise in the vexed issue of urban housing.
Mr McAdam says his government supports generously funded Commonwealth plans to improve town camps and itinerant accommodation – but he’ll keep a keen eye on this project to ensure it doesn’t fly in the face the town’s expectations.
He sees housing of government workers on remote communities as a chance of making a dollar for Aboriginal investors flush with royalties money.
And he’s excited about the recent build-up of a cattle herd on previously defunct Aboriginal pastoral enterprises.
Above all, he is “very proud and privileged to be the Minister for Central Australia” although he has “big shoes to fill after the resignation of Peter Toyne who is a man of immense integrity”.
Mr McAdam says he will “engage with the community without fear or favour, and be open and accessible”.
“I’m a straight shooter and want to be a formidable advocate” for Central Australia which he considers to include the Barkly as well.
“It adds a bit of bite to the Barkly,” he says.
While we haven’t seen significant progress in Central Australia on Aboriginal land “I’m absolutely certain the the Central Land Council, the traditional owners, the private sector and the Northern Territory Government will [achieve development through] joint partnership arrangements.”
Mr McAdam spoke with Alice Springs News editor ERWIN CHLANDA last week.
McADAM: I think 99 year leases [on Aboriginal land] provide a real opportunity, certainly from a government perspective, for housing on indigenous land, bearing in mind that we’ve always said [such leases] should be on a voluntary basis.
Over time the changes to the [Federal Land Rights Act] which have been agreed to by the land councils will provide a real economic boost.
For example, communities could use their royalty money to build houses for staff on communities, such as teachers and police officers, and we lease the houses from the communities. That would be a great opportunity. I’m a great believer in the marketplace.
But I don’t think we should get hung up about home ownership under these arrangements, that shouldn’t be a panacea for the housing shortage. Number one you’ve got to have a proper income to pay off a loan and number two you’ve got to have a market to on-sell.
The good thing about home ownership is it gives people a choice, but there are other opportunities between the private sector, government and public housing.
Territory Housing can actually build public housing on these communities.
At the moment we’re locked into an indigenous program. We’re bringing that together with our public housing program.
There are going to be some structural changes over the next few months.
NEWS: Would Territory Housing become a 99 year lessee of land?
McADAM: If we can negotiate security of tenure then Territory Housing can go in and build houses which we can rent to people. But at the same time there could be opportunities for the private sector. I don’t think we have explored enough how we can provide dollars for indigenous housing. There are some really exciting opportunities.
NEWS: What about commercial enterprises, joint ventures?
McADAM: We can’t just say [to communities] there must be enterprises. There are limitations to some communities. [You can’t just say] you must become an economic dynamo ... but where there are sufficient numbers of people opportunities will arise. In Maningrida the Bawinanga Corporation has built a store in competition with the local store. They also have a hardware shop. These are emerging economies in their own right.
NEWS: These issues will determine the future of Alice Springs insofar as the size of the urban drift will impact the town.
McADAM: That’s a hard question. There are lots of things I’m still trying to come to grips with. One is the remote area exemption [from the requirement for people on the dole to be looking for work and taking available work]. I understand from public servants that if you live within 90 minutes’ travel from where a job is offered you must attend. I don’t think [all] people have the economic means to rise to that kind of challenge.
NEWS: We carried a story last week that Canteen Creek is thriving under the new policies.
McADAM: Canteen Creek is in my electorate. It’s a great little community. It’s always been a very strong, independent community. They’re using CDEP [but] they have some very strict rules and regulations.
NEWS: In your judgement will the new Federal policies improve employment opportunities in the bush or will they accelerate urban drift?
McADAM: It will vary. Where communities are very strategic and able to build relationships with the outside, then it can work. The big challenge in Central Australia is to create a robust and sustainable economy. That’s the bottom line.
There are lots of opportunities out there. Look at the cattle industry.
There are about 25,000 head of cattle on redundant pastoral leases on Aboriginal land, and the expectation is another 20,000 this year. 
That’s from zero to 35,000 head in about four years. This is people using their land. The cattle are going to the market. To me that’s exciting stuff.
NEWS: There’s been a lot of tension between the three tiers of government over town camps lately.
McADAM: What’s occurred in the last six months has been a very, very important change. Number one there is recognition, by both the Territory and the Commonwealth governments, that what we used to call town camps should be incorporated as suburbs.
I’m absolutely happy with that. I’ve always held the view that regardless of where you live you should be entitled to the same services as anyone else.
In the past we tended to pass the buck between ourselves and the Commonwealth and Tangentyere. [The camps aren’t] paying rates.
Now Alice Springs is maturing. It’s not a case of them and us. To me that’s a very significant event.
By getting the town council and Tangentyere together we’re going to standardise the provision of services, roads, rubbish and all that stuff. Infrastructure will be upgraded, over time.
There is also recognition that the town camps are the places where people from out of town come.
We know Tangentyere is concerned about that, the dysfunction, the overcrowding, the grog.
NEWS: The proposals for a transient camp have confused and scared the public. It’s hard to fathom who’s doing what.
McADAM: The Commonwealth have brought up these demountables. I know there’s been a big concern here. It’s very important to understand that was a Commonwealth initiative.
NEWS: Did they ask anyone first?
McADAM: They said they would bring these demountables to Alice Springs and now they are here. We’ve always made it clear to the Commonwealth Government that you’ve got to go through processes, like everyone else, the Development Consent Authority (DCA).
You’ve got to involve the town council, the community. My understanding now is that the majority of these demountables will got to communities outside Alice. There is the potential that some will stay here as managed short-term accommodation. 
The NT Government’s model is different. We’ve gone out to an expression of interest from businesses and NGOs in Alice Springs, $2.03m [is available].
What we’re saying, would you like to provide us a purpose-built, bricks and mortar managed accommodation facility that would be secure. It’s like the existing hostels.
We’re looking for the same sort of approach, similar to Stuart Lodge [alongside Melanka] that’s presently being refurbished.
That’s going to be managed, same as the Keith Lawrie Flats [in Bloomfield Street, currently being renovated from the ground up]. Before, what we did was put a whole lot of people in there.
NEWS: How will these facilities be managed in the future?
McADAM: We’re going to call for expressions of interest, from private enterprise and NGOs [to manage and control the use of these facilities].
Each and every one [using transient accommodation] will be required to pay a tariff. It could be $20, $30 or it could be $40.
And for the public housing around Alice Springs, in Larapinta, for example, we’re going to go to a managed model as well.
It’s almost like a case managed model, it will be very intense for people who need support from the system.
You’ll find people will have pride in their place. You go anywhere in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Katherine, Darwin, you know which house is Territory Housing.
What we’re saying to people, is, hey, listen, we want you to be our tenants but at the same time we want you to take a bit of pride in your house.
As part of this managed model we’re talking about landscaping [by the tenants], planting trees, that sort of stuff.
NEWS: How can you enforce participation in this?
McADAM: It’s a matter of engaging people. We may be talking about some tenants who’re having a few problems. The case managed cluster models, as I call it, [will deal] with life skills, which Tangentyere are now running in the town camps. This will go right across public housing.
If you’re a good tenant and you make your house look nice, you never know, there could be a week’s rent off! 
NEWS: Will there be one transient camp or two?
McADAM: I don’t know yet. [So far as the NT Government’s project is concerned,] if in the first expressions of interest we get a good proposal we’ll have a look at another one.
NEWS: If a hotel or motel already zoned for accommodation comes up for sale, would the matter need to come before the DCA and the Minister? Could the site be used for transients without public or ministerial consultation?
McADAM: You can never drive anything from Canberra. The very fact that we’ve now set up the implementation committee brings focus and rigor to the project. And if I get a whiff that potentially something isn’t in the best interest of Alice Springs, no matter what project we’re talking about, then clearly the antennas will go up. I see myself as an advocate for Alice Springs and Tennant Creek.
FOOTNOTE: The first meeting of the Town Camps Implementation Steering Committee was held in Alice Springs on September 1.  The Committee includes the following bodies: Lhere Artepe, Tangentyere Council, Alice Springs Town Council, Office of Indigenous Policy Coordination (Australian Government), NT Police, Fire & Emergency Services; NT Department of Local Government, Housing & Sport; NT Department of the Chief Minister. Mr McAdam says he believes the Commonwealth will allocate about $10m to the project.

A sixth candidate has thrown his hat into the ring for the by-election of Stuart.
Peter Tjungarray Wilson, married to a Warlpiri woman and currently based at Mataranka, says he’s standing to “lend support to anybody except the Labor Party”.
Father of five and jack of many trades, Mr Wilson has also helped his wife raise her six grandchildren and the couple are now looking after a great grandchild.
He says former member for Stuart Peter Toyne betrayed the Warlpiri people on customary law issues: “They wanted Aboriginal law made sacrosanct. It was never even attempted and that’s morally wrong. He failed the majority of his electorate and our grandchildren will pay dearly for his mistakes.”
He says what happened to Anna Machado, the CLP candidate in Stuart in the last general election, is “a disgrace”. (Ms Machado and her husband, in the lead-up to the election, were give less than 24 hours notice by the Central Land Council to leave their business and home at Willowra.)
“If I can help get her over the line that’ll be good,” says Mr Wilson.
Ms Machado was Dr Toyne’s only opponent in last year’s election, which he won with 71% of the first preference votes.
Whatever the result in the imminent by-election, his anointed successor Karl Hampton is unlikely to get such massive support.
The CLP is fielding paired candidates Lloyd Spender-Nelson and Rex Granites Japanangka, both from Yuendumu, who will direct preferences to one another.
Ms Machado, back at Willowra, is running again, as a “CLP friendly” independent, and Gary Cartwright, employed at Urapunga and a former Labor MLA with strong ties to the northern part of the electorate, is expected to direct preferences to the CLP.
Mr Cartwright  announced his candidacy as a protest against Labor’s five years in government . 
Mr Hampton will be fifth on the ballot paper, with Mr Spencer-Nelson first, then Ms Machado, Mr Cartwright, Mr Japanangka, and last, Mr Wilson.
Stuart covers a massive 326,959.59 square kilometres, stretching to the WA border, north of Top Springs, east along the Sandover and takes in the town camps on the eastern side of Alice.
The NT Electoral Commission puts its  population at 6353. Almost 85% are Aboriginal.
In 2005 just 59% of enrolled voters cast a vote, with 95.4% of them formal.

 The electorate of Stuart is the oldest in the Northern Territory and the only original seat still surviving from the commencement of the Legislative Council in 1947.
The CLP running two candidates there isn’t new: I was one of them battling against Brian Eade, who won and became Opposition Leader.
There were initially six electorates, of which two (Stuart and Alice Springs) were based in the Centre – there were also seven official members (usually bureaucrats) appointed by the Federal Government.
The first Member for Stuart was Jock Nelson (no relation) at the start of his illustrious political career.
Nelson served one term in Stuart, afterwards becoming the NT’s Federal representative (Labor). He was also Alice’s first mayor in 1971.
Nelson was succeeded briefly by Bill Braitling, a pastoralist, and in turn was replaced in Stuart by another pastoralist, Bill Petrick, who served for 11 years.
In 1962 voters chose DD Smith to be the next Member for Stuart.
Smith, the town’s resident engineer, made an outstanding contribution to the development of Alice Springs and the Territory – he is perhaps best remembered for overseeing the construction and sealing of the north Stuart Highway during World War Two.
The Legislative Council now had eight elected members (still two from Central Australia) as against six appointed official members, and also three non-official members, one of whom was Bernie Kilgariff.
In August 1965 the Member for Alice Springs, Colonel AL Rose, announced the formation of an independent conservative party, the North Australia Party.
Based in the Alice, the NAP (now recognized as the forerunner of the CLP) fielded five candidates in the hotly contested election campaign of October 1965, but only one succeeded – this was AGW (Tony) Greatorex, who took Stuart.
Ironically, Rose was defeated by the Labor candidate, Charlie Orr – the only time that the ALP has ever won a seat in Alice Springs.
Greatorex, as a Country Party member, was re-elected in Stuart in 1968 and 1971.
Bernie Kilgariff, also Country Party, defeated Labor’s Charlie Orr in 1968 to become the Member for Alice Springs.
In August 1969, Tony Greatorex was chosen by his parliamentary colleagues as President of the Legislative Council to replace Harry Chan, who had died in office.
Greatorex held this position for five years until the Legislative Council was formally ended in October 1974.
By this time there were 11 elected members in the NT, but still only two based in the Centre.
This changed with the commencement of the fully-elected Legislative Assembly in late 1974, when four out of 19 electorates were based in Central Australia – these were Stuart, Alice Springs, Gillen and MacDonnell.
The Territory’s conservative groups combined to form the Country Liberal Party (the first branch was in Alice Springs) which swept into office, winning 17 electorates with two independents making up the balance – Labor did not win any seats.
The CLP’s emphatic victory was the first signal in Australia of voter disenchantment with the Whitlam Labor government in Canberra; it was also the beginning of its unbroken political dominance in the NT for 27 years.
The new Member for Stuart in 1974 was Roger Vale, commencing a 20 year political career as an immensely popular local politician.
Stuart included a part of urban Alice Springs within its boundaries in the 1970s but Vale enjoyed a significant personal following from Aboriginal voters in the bush, in large part due to his membership of the Pioneer Football Club and his active role in the Central Australian Football League.
This support was crucial for Vale’s successful re-election in 1977, when the CLP suffered a widespread swing against it in the lead-up to self-government of the NT.
Two bush seats either side of Stuart – MacDonnell to the south and Victoria River in the north – fell to Labor.
MacDonnell was held by Labor for 20 years (18 of them under Neil Bell) until the CLP’s John Elferink won the seat in 1997.
The loss of Victoria River in 1977 was a severe blow to the CLP, for it was the seat of the party’s leader, Dr Goff Letts (the deputy leader, Grant Tambling, also lost his Darwin-based seat).
However, this might be described as a “Pyrrhic defeat” for Labor, as it led to the rise of Paul Everingham, who became the Territory’s first Chief Minister.
Roger Vale retained Stuart for one more term after the 1980 elections.
In 1983, Everingham oversaw an increase of electorates from 19 to 25, of which six were based in or around Alice Springs.
The old seat of Alice Springs gave way to Sadadeen, and Gillen became Araluen, plus there were two new electorates, Flynn and Braitling (the latter included all of the urban area that had once been in Stuart).
Vale transferred to Braitling.
As in 1974, the elections of December 1983 were an electoral bloodbath, with the CLP winning 19 seats and Labor the remainder.
One of the seats the ALP took was Stuart under new member Brian Ede, commencing an unbroken dominance by Labor to this day.
It was also in 1983 that the CLP pioneered a new tactic of running two candidates in an electorate – this was done in Arafura and Victoria River.
Labor retained Arafura but Victoria River fell to the CLP’s Terry McCarthy, the only occasion that this tactic has worked (at least as far as declared same-party candidates are concerned).
I joined the CLP as a member of the Flynn Branch in 1984.
The Flynn Branch provided the CLP’s candidates for Stuart, MacDonnell and Barkly as well as Flynn itself in the NT elections of March 1987, but all except for Flynn were unsuccessful.
In Alice Springs the seat of Sadadeen was retained by incumbent member Denis Collins as an independent conservative after he had lost CLP preselection to Shane Stone.
The CLP’s fortunes waned further after the loss of the Flynn by-election in September 1988, which fell to the NT Nationals’ Enzo Floreani.
This situation set the scene for some interesting developments in Central Australian during 1990.

Alice is losing hundreds of thousands of dollars as Tanami Gold mining company sources most of its labour and supplies from elsewhere due to the poor state of the Tanami Road.
The company started extracting gold from the Coyote mine in May and is currently finalising construction of the treatment plant.
The mine is expected to generate about $25m a year from the production of around 70,000 ounces annually.
Located 18km from the Western Australian boarder and 730km down the Tanami Road from Alice Springs, heavy rains in April closed the road completely.
“Central Australia is a very prospective place for mining but the infrastructure really impacts on the development of projects here,” says Denis Waddell, the executive chairman of Tanami Gold.
“There was no way we could get services through from Alice in April as the roads were impossible to use after the wet.
“The worst areas were 100km each side of the border [NT and WA].
“We had to evacuate people by helicopter in April due to sections of the roads being washed out.
“The cost of access and damage to trucks and plant equipment.
“The delays in getting equipment and people to site due to the state of the roads, has cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“It added a significant cost to the project.”
From April, Tanami Gold began increasingly sourcing supplies and labour from WA and Darwin.
Mr Waddell said he couldn’t give a dollar figure of exactly how much Alice is missing out on, but says it is “hundreds of thousands of dollars”.
“We would be pleased to use Alice Springs as the major supply centre if access was better all year.
“However, we need to run our operations as efficiently and cost effectively as possible which often requires sourcing services and equipment elsewhere.
“Well funded infrastructure in Central Australia is critical for the development of new projects such as the Coyote Gold Project, as such projects impact on local employment in Central Australia and the opportunities for employment and training of people from remote communities and business opportunities for remote communities.”
Mr Waddell has raised the issue informally with the NT government and also discussed the infrastructure problems with the Governor-General who opened the mine.
“We’ve raised it a number of times.
“It’s not the sort of thing that gets funded or addressed overnight although it must be given serious consideration and priority.
“Work has been done to improve the roads but a longer term infrastructure plan and funding commitment needs to be put in place by the NT and federal governments.”
The Alice News asked NT Minister for Transport Delia Lawrie whether she took responsibility for the loss of goods and services from Central Australia.
She responded with a statement: “Priorities for road funding are determined in consultation with organisations such as the Cattleman’s Association and the NT Minerals Council.
“The Tanami Road is part of this process.
“This year’s total NT Government expenditure on this road is budgeted at $3.1m.
“Various works include resealing / shoulder works / grading / patchworks / drainage.
“One contract of works is currently underway and will be complete by November.
“Another two major contracts are also about to be advertised and awarded.”

A disabled visitor from England was left upset after walking 15 minutes to the new council loos on Sunday and finding they were closed with no alternative facilities suggested.
Gina Everson had surgery on her spine in May and walks with crutches.
Her husband, Mike Everson, went back to the council on Monday to complain but was told by the receptionist to write a letter.
“I said I was visiting from England and I don’t have time to write in,” says Mr Everson.
“I asked if she could pass on my complaint for me but she said ‘they don’t listen to me’.
“If they can’t open the toilet on Sundays, at least make an exception on market day: there were hundreds of people at the market and we watched other people doing the same as us, going up to the toilets and walking away disgusted they weren’t open.”
Mr Everson also said that it was difficult to find the toilet.
“All the signs were pointing away from the Todd Mall.”
Eric Peterson, the acting CEO of the council and the director of technical services said that last month the council had approved that the toilets be open on Saturday and Sunday mornings between 8am and 12noon, but that they were closed last Sunday.
“This was because of difficulties finding cleaning staff.”
About Mr Everson’s complaint he said: “Staff should take notes of any complaints and they are reviewed by management.
“If Mr Everson wishes to send us a letter then it is appropriate he should do so.”
He said the council will review the opening hours of the toilets in February.
“If public support is there for extended service hours we will look into that but we will have to look at staffing, rostering and the cost.”
The Alice News passed on Mr Everson’s telephone number to Mr Peterson.
Mr Everson told us that he received a “grumpy message” from Mr Peterson, with his telephone number.
“We tried to ring the number twice but it wouldn’t work.
“We’re not sure what to make of that,” said Mr Everson. 

In the new look dry town of Alice, where will the drinkers go, wants to know Loraine Braham.
She means of course, public drinkers: “The government fails to acknowledge alcohol issues mainly affect Aboriginal people who are not allowed to drink in their own homes and, because of this, they want to drink in our back yard,” says Mrs Braham. 
The Licensing Commission’s response, through a spokesperson is bland:  “There are many different licensed premises in Alice Springs, more than 80 that offer drinkers a wide range of choices of venue to drink. 
“These are venues that have in place license conditions and laws which mean that people should be drinking responsibly. 
“People of course are entitled to drink in their own home, unless they themselves have requested assistance in controlling alcohol in their home. 
“If dry area applications are made over public places, then there are still opportunities to have functions in these places.  It just means that someone will be responsible for the responsible service and consumption of liquor.”
Mrs Braham also protests against the restriction of cask wines, which from October 1 will only be available after 6pm, and in casks no greater than two litres.
Fortified wines are restricted to container size of one litre. And only one of either product per person per day can be purchased, with camera surveillance to ensure compliance.
Says the  Licensing Commission: “Evidence already gathered in an Alice Springs context points to these products as instrumental in causing high hospital admissions, high assaults, and high exacerbation of chronic illness.  
“By limiting the sale to later in the day, rather than by banning the products altogether, the Commission is seeking to address the main harmful effects of these products without unduly affecting the general population. 
“The Commission has announced though, that it is willing to hear any solutions or schemes to solve the problem of those who are not able to shop after 6pm, particularly old age pensioners.”
The commission is exploring the option of a licensing system to purchase alcohol, with a trial underway in Gove at the moment.
The commission’s Chris McIntyre, deputy director of licensing for the southern region, spoke to the town council on Monday night about the details of the Alice Springs Alcohol Management Plan, released last week.
The new regime is not a trial but it will be closely monitored he said, with particular attention paid to product switching.
Licensees will supply monthly product figures which will be analysed by the commission and an alcohol reference panel made up of government, town council and other “stakeholder” representatives.
The plan is “a living document” which will “evolve over time”, said Mr McIntyre.
Alderman David Koch urged the council to support, via a letter to the commission, the introduction, as a condition of licensing, of a software product capable of rapidly recognising people’s identification.
It would allow networking between outlets, helping ensure that customers had not purchased a restricted product anywhere else in Alice Springs that day.
It would also be useful in identifying underage drinkers and banned customers.
“I spent 28 years in the hospitality industry,” said Ald Koch, former licensee of the Todd Tavern.
“If I were still in the industry I would support this. It would make life so much easier.”
A majority of aldermen agreed. 
Ald Melanie van Haaren sought support for a motion endorsing the alcohol management plan, but was defeated.
She told the Alice News:  “The plan closely resembles the national [alcohol] plan, customized of course for Alice. 
“Nationally the big swing has been away from putting health in the box seat and turning our attention to ways to reduce/minimize the harm caused by intoxication. 
“For the first time ever, given this huge change, local government [in the national plan] has been put at the helm, and is now not just a stakeholder, but an entity with roles. 
“Council decided not to endorse the plan, thereby as far as I am concerned, abdicating their unique responsibility to provide leadership in this area. 
“Council will be out of sync with other councils around Australia as a result of this decision.”
Ald Robyn Lambley reminded Ald van Haaren of the town council’s recent contribution to the debate around the local plan, which included lengthening takeaway trading hours.  She didn’t want council to be seen as doing a backflip.
Ald van Haaren also unsuccessfully sought council’s in principle support for the Commonwealth’s provision of short-term managed accommodation (see our lead story).
She told the Alice News: “As we all know this has been extremely controversial and the interest level high. 
“Council decided not to make comment. Then they complained that Minister Brough is not talking to council about the proposal.  Why should he?  We apparently have no opinion”  
On Monday aldermen preferred to wait until they consider in greater detail all of the recommendations of the Town Camps Taskforce at their forum meeting next week.
Ald Samih Habib expressed great indignation that aldermen had not been made aware of Mal Brough’s visit on the weekend: “We are being treated like bloody mushrooms!”
Ald Lambley learnt of the visit two minutes before going on air and being asked to comment on it: “I felt very compromised,” she said.
There was general agreement that communication on the matter had been poor and it will be taken up with the mayor, who was part of Mr Brough’s tour of the Tyeweretye Club. Aldermen were advised that notice to the mayor, a member of the town camps implementation committee, had been very short.

Fears that new no work no pay rules in remote communities would cause an urban drift into Alice Springs have been unfounded in the case of Ali Curung, says their council CEO, Karen Worth.
The community, some 400 kms north of Alice, had its remote area exemption lifted on July 1
“Initially in July there was apprehension among the people here. They thought it was just another scheme. And we thought there could have been an urban drift into Alice Springs but that hasn’t happened,” says Ms Worth.
“We have been able to achieve a lot more for the community because people are more productive.
“I’m proud that they’ve taken it on board.
“It is an important long term plan for communities. They are taking responsibility for themselves and their future.”
Kaytetye man Noel Hayes is administration manager for the council. He agrees that his people are committed to the program. 
“They are joining up with CDEP now. It has taken them a while to go to work after sitting down on the dole for a long time. But now they are coming to the CDEP office and looking for work. They are coming back from Tennant Creek and other communities back to Ali Curung. 
“With these new farming projects coming up, there will be jobs for everybody who wants to work. It will benefit the community and the people to no end.
“Nobody suffering and there is no hardship [if they breach their obligation]. They got families [to help them out in the short term].”
The Department of Employment and Workplace Relations has given Ms Worth a goal of getting 170 members of the community onto CDEP.
There are currently 400 living on the community and 100 at the neighbouring Murray Downs.
Before July 1 there was 83 on the program, now there are 150. Around 80 per cent are working a 20 hour week on average, in the health clinic, the school and the store.
The remainder who are not turning up for work are not being paid.
Ms Worth believes the no work no pay rule is an important motivator, not a cruelty.
“In normal working environments, if you don’t turn up for work, you won’t get paid and a normal working environment is what we’re ultimately trying to achieve for communities. “When you’ve got no money coming in you’re going to learn, aren’t you?
“And no one starves. When one person doesn’t have any money, the rest of the family helps.
“And it’s not just a process happened overnight, it’s not something that has been forced on them. Meetings were held between government departments and the community last year so everyone is aware about the change.”
Ms Worth says the long term goal is to get people into sustainable employment.
“The aim is to convert CDEP to real jobs.
“I can’t say how long it will be but we are putting projects into place with long term objectives,” says Ms Worth.
One example has just started: a vegetable garden. Land is being dug and prepared by 40 men and women, with a crop of zucchinis, bush tomatoes, corn, tomatoes, watermelon and rockmelon due to be harvested by Christmas. Eventually it is hoped there will 10 to 12 full time jobs in the garden, planting, harvesting and selling to Alice Springs.
A propagation shed is also being built.
Other ideas being investigated include tourism: Ali Curung is easily accessible by road.
“I can’t comment on specifics at the moment but we’re developing a comprehensive plan,” says Ms Worth.
Ms Worth says she hopes other communities will follow. 
“I would emphasise how good this has been to the community.
“People understand that there is now no work, no pay and we’re getting a lot of productivity with our mob out here.”
By June 30 2008, 56 remote communities in Central Australia will have the no work no pay dole rule enforced.
People living in communities outside a 90km radius of the job market of Alice Springs are currently not required to work for the dole, except where the exemption has been lifted.
Ltyentye Apurte  (Santa Teresa) is likely to have its remote area exemption rule lifted in six months’ time, after the Ltyentye Apurte Community Government Council and its CEO, Wally Litvensky, met with the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations last week.
There are approximately 70 people on Centrelink benefits with 135 residents on CDEP at Ltyentye Apurte.
“People on the community have a good work ethic, and Santa Teresa has been known for that since the 1950s,” said Mr Litvensky.
“I think people who aren’t on CDEP will move into it.” 
Mr Litvensky said options for long term employment on the community were discussed, including producing fruit from the orchard there and developing tourism. Tours have sporadically been visiting the arts centre and Catholic church to view the art murals there since last year.
“This program has to be about meaningful employment which will give them the opportunity to go into full time employment.
“The orchard will be able to be rejuvenated, and we have the goods for tourism especially in the area of the arts where Santa Teresa is becoming nationally and internationally known.
“But enterprise won’t happen overnight.
“The people here need training and education so they can work in these areas effectively. Batchelor College is looking into the training needs required to develop people’s skills, however I know they don’t have the human resources to provide all that is needed here in Santa Teresa for training programs.”

A campsite where mother and daughter team, Betty and Esther Pearce, are conducting cultural tours has been vandalised.
A dozen trees were cut down recently at the site, off the Yuendumu Road north of Alice Springs, right next to a campfire circle of rocks.
The site is a former stock route and is now Aboriginal land.
“We’re trying to set an example of how you can get out of the welfare cycle, and then this is done to us,” says Betty.
The vandals obviously used a chainsaw, took the trunks with them and left the twigs and branches lying around.
The site is a small part of several square kilometres of Aboriginal land, and the two women think there was a clear attempt to target them.

Residents say it’s an eyesore, out of character with the area, blocking views and infringing privacy, but the developer says the six two storey units at 5 Hawkins Court in Gillen will increase the value of the area.
Nine objections to the development were received when the application was publicly exhibited last July and all but one resident from Hawkins Court attended the Development Consent Authority’s (DCA) meeting.
John Dermody has been a resident of Gillen for 30 years and lives in Hawkins Court. He is concerned the units will lead to inappropriate development in the area.
“I don’t have a problem with development as long as it is within the town plan.
“Developments in R2 zones are supposed to be within the [character] of the area: putting six two storey units on one block opens the floodgates for continued multi-storey inappropriate development.
“Among other things the Alice Springs town plan states that development is to ‘maintain existing domestic residential character of the area’, and ‘all multiple dwellings are to be compatible with the scale and character of the locality’.
“Apart from a granny flat at back of 6 Hawkins, there are no other units in the area, let alone multi two storey.
“When the house next door [number five] was sold seven years ago, it was the most expensive ever in Gillen: it sold for $350,000.
“The poor adjoining property has virtually lost all their privacy.”
Rob McKeaig, the owner of 5 Hawkins Court wrote to the Development Consent Authority, organised a petition and attended its meeting in August.
He and his family moved to Adelaide for business and he put his house on the market. After three months it didn’t sell so he took it off the market.
“We’ll lose $50,000 because of this. You know how quickly property goes in Alice Springs. We couldn’t even get anyone through to have a look at it – they saw the development next door and didn’t bother to come in.
“No one wants to have a unit balcony staring into their rooms.”
He says the DCA’s system is undemocratic.
“We took pictures from our roof showing how the balconies of the new units would look directly into our kid’s bedrooms. We presented all this information to the board but they didn’t change the plans. They only made slight alterations: to put established plants down our boundary fence.  “Developers rule the roost there.”
The developer, Tony Bandiera, agreed to put up partial screens on verandahs to limit overlooking and tall trees (up to 7m high) will be planted.
Mr Dermody and six other residents also wrote to the DCA and the then minister for planning, Chris Burns.
“It was pointless making any effort,” said Mr Dermody. 
“My letters were treated with contempt.
“And the response I got from the DCA and the minister’s office were unprofessional.
“He just rubber stamped everything without even the courtesy of department staff coming to have a look.
“The DCA can do what it likes because for residential development like this there is no avenue for appeal.
“They put a few conditions on but they are meaningless and unenforceable.  “The initial plans put forward had the front unit in such a location that a car could not enter the carport as the turning area was too narrow!  It was up to objectors to point this out to the DCA.”
Mr Bandiera says the complex will contain some of the most luxurious apartments in Alice: he says each of the 200 square metre units will have its own swimming pool, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a double garage.
“They’ll sell for $440,000 each,” says Mr Bandiera.
“It will make the area much nicer and the new housing will bring a different type of person living in Gillen.”
He maintains that he’s not breaching the town plan.
“In terms of keeping within the nature of the area: what do they expect me to do, build units that are 30 years old?
“There are units already in Gillen everywhere. There is no land available in Alice Springs: the inner area will become a built up zone like any city.
“In 50 years time there might be units on the golf course.”
He says that the development isn’t too close to neighbouring houses.
“I could have built eight units on this size of land but I’m only building six.” 
Four fires have been lit on the building site over the past four months, causing over $30,000 in damage to building materials.
In response to Mr Dermody’s complaint about the development, the then Minister, Dr Burns, replied: “While I acknowledge the issues you have raised, the development application has been dealt with by the DCA in accordance with due process and commensurate with its statutory responsibilities under the Planning Act including considerations of its submissions made by the public.”
When Mr Dermody wrote to him again repeating the specific questions he failed to answer in his first reponse, Dr Burns replied: 
“It would be inappropriate for me to respond to many of the questions you raised. 
“I must reiterate that I understand the matter has been dealt with by the Development Consent Authority.” 

Final in a series by ELISABETH ATTWOOD looking at the varying fortunes of organised religions in Alice Springs. (See Parts One and Two on Aug 31 and Sep 7).

Worshipping God is more than just church buildings and “bottoms on pews”, says Associate Pastor Robert Borgas of the Lutheran Church in Alice.
Pastor Borgas says education and Aboriginal ministry are the Lutheran Church’s “biggest responsibility” in Central Australia. 
The church supports Indigenous people through its Finke River Mission and maintains a strong relationship with its original church in Hermannsburg, founded in 1877. Worship services are also led by Aboriginal pastors and evangelists at many other outstations and communities in Central Australia, including the town camps in Alice Springs.
Worship at Gap Road in Alice began in the 1930s and was originally held under the old gum tree on the so called “mission block”.
Today there are over 500 baptised Lutherans in town. 
“Our foundation stone has the words, ‘Many Members – One Body’,” says Pastor Borgas. 
“Our congregation certainly reflects these words with a diverse membership of people with a variety of backgrounds.” 
Each week, about 250 people worship at the two Sunday worship services.
“We also have a Sunday school and two vibrant youth groups,” says Pastor Borgas.
Pastor Borgas says denominational loyalty remains strong among many of their Aboriginal members today.
“But because Alice is such a transient yet isolated town, attending a particular denomination is becoming less important for many other Australians.
“We have people who come from all denominations attending our church because they go to a church they like: it meets the style of worship they’re comfortable with, or it might be the church that is closest or friendliest.” 
The church also spreads its message through its two schools in town: Living Waters and Yirara College, which have a combined student population of 550.
Denominations working together is the future in small isolated areas such as Tennant Creek, says Pastor Borgas.
In Tennant the Lutheran Church has a special agreement with the Anglican Church so both can worship together every Sunday at 9am, at the Anglican Church.
And in Alice Springs different churches cooperate, through the Ministers Fellowship, for activities such as Carols by Candlelight or contributing monies for a chaplain at the hospital. 
The fellowship is made up of ministers representing the Uniting, Anglican, Catholic, Baptist, Salvation Army, Pentecostal and Lutheran churches. 
Other faith communities in Alice Springs include the Baha’i, with about 60 members.
The faith believes all religions are spiritually united and come from the same source: there is one god and one human family.
There are no priests nor clergy.
“The teachings of Baha’u’llah have a theme of unity,” says Jasmine Bell of Alice’s Baha’i community.
“We hope to put into practice the teachings to bring more unity in the world.” 
The Baha’i in Alice meet at a unity hall and also each other’s houses.
Ms Bell says the size of the community has remained the same since she has been in town. 
“I don’t think it’s changed over 18 months, although over the last 10 years it has grown throughout Australia and remains a growing faith.” 
Ms Bell says everyone is welcome to join the community: “Lots of people who aren’t Baha’i take part in our activities. We like to have lots of things going on so people can learn about Baha’i.”
In the last holidays they ran a program for children between 11 and 15 focused on learning how to make a united world.
They have study groups which anyone is free to join.
The recruitment of skilled migrants in Alice Springs is attracting a greater number of Muslims, and the mosque in town is reporting a greater number of people attending: around 20 regularly coming to pray with up to 100 attending the mosque’s festivals held several times a year.
“There are a lot of professional people like doctors, engineers and nurses taking jobs here in Central Australia,” says Abdul Khan, president of Alice Spring Islamic Community.
“It’s a very important meeting place for people and for celebrating various activities. And for the younger generation it is becoming an increasingly important place: we hold a number of religious, social and educational activities.” 
The mosque is about to build a house for the imam.
“Before we have organised just temporary accommodation,” says Mr Khan.
“Now we are in a position to build a permanent residence.”

Steve Irwin will be remembered in Alice Springs when the Reptile Centre holds a celebration of his life next Tuesday.
The centre is organising the event after it received cards, flowers and telephone calls requesting something be done locally to remember him.
Irwin, who died on Monday of last week, visited the Reptile Centre in February 2003. He handled pythons and a goanna called Bub which famously bit him on the arm twice. 
“It will be a family day and a kids day: a celebration of his life and how he lived it,” says Rex Neindorf (pictured above), owner of the Reptile Centre.
“Kids might want to come dressed in khaki, they can bring their toy crocodiles and blonde wigs.
“We’ll have a big card for people to sign and forward that on to the Irwin family.”
Donations raised from a sausage sizzle will go to Wildcare, the local group which looks after injured wildlife.
“We want to keep the money local,” said Neindorf who’ll never forget meeting the naturalist and international television celebrity in the Alice.
“He was exuberant and had no reverse gear. He was pumped up even when the camera switched off.
“His death is tragic. But it will be a great legacy if his death turns conservation into a real issue.
“He’s made reptiles lovable all over the world and I hope that tradition continues.” 
5.30pm, at the Reptile Centre, Stuart Terrace.

Celebration not disappointment was the theme of this year’s Irrkerlantye Festival Night held last Thursday.
The school part of the centre was finally closed earlier this year but the learning centre is still operating for adults and informally for children.
On Thursday, the small grounds of the centre were bursting with life: colourful flags welcomed visitors, with Aboriginal children dancing, laughing and playing instruments with the percussion group Tumbarumba.
Traditional dot paintings and sepia etchings made by children and adults of the centre adorned the outside walls, and the basketball courts were turned into a concert venue as the group Drum Atweme (made up of former Irrkerlantye students) drummed the night away. 
Smells of foods being sold from around the world made mouths water for the many different people who supported the evening, from politicians to families.
“We wanted to show tonight that not even the minister’s decision could break us up.
“That’s how strong-knit a community Irrkerlantye is,” said manager Deborah Maidment.
“Tonight it looks like our kids haven’t left. They still come back for breakfast and lunch and for Aboriginal culture.
“It’s really like the school has just shifted locations: most of the kids are at Bradshaw and Alice Springs High School but they still come back.”
Ms Maidment said many of the old teachers who left Irrkerlantye in protest after the school closed volunteered their time at the festival.
“They are here alongside the new teachers. It shows how strong the backbone is of the centre.”

I love this country a lot. We all do. No surprises there.
Australia is a great nation built from very humble and almost shameful beginnings. I love all the qualities John Howard keeps going on about. Mateship, egalitarianism and a fair go are, when done properly, fantastic tools for nation building.
But that’s not why I love this country. It’s not for the standard reasons that get thrown around on Ray Martin specials.
They’re great but there is something greater. There is something about the people who call this country home that you just don’t get with any other culture.
The thing that sets us apart is so engrained here in Central Australia.
I love this country because better than any other country I know, we Australians are masters at celebrating all that is ludicrous.
Oh yes, when it comes to the absurd we revel in it. Here in the Alice is no exception.
The Henley on Todd has to be our crowning achievement in the pursuit of that celebration. Even if we don’t go along we love the idea that it exists. One town’s celebration of the fact that their river doesn’t often fulfill the job description.
The regatta will be on this weekend and for many thousands of people who come to the Alice at this time of year it will not just be a strange and quirky event to tell people of at home but also a look into the minds of the local population. Who says we can’t have a regatta?
Sure we’re missing a couple of fairly vital ingredients but that’s nothing a bit of ingenuity can’t overcome.
Imagine for a moment the first time you heard of the Henley on Todd. What did you think? Ludicrous! Men and women sweating it out for victory in a competition that when you boil it down means less to the greater community than the fight for the blue ribbon in the Easter hat parade.
Yet these competitors, many of whom wouldn’t run for the bus most days, race shin deep in sand for the prize. The “boats” are elaborate machines designed for one purpose, a ludicrous amount of fun and mess.
And what is more ludicrous is that we watch!
The Desert Festival has just wrapped up for another year and it seems to me to be a slightly different type of ludicrous.
I have a performance background and as such have performed in and seen many festival like activities.
But seriously, if I see one more experimental theatre piece, which explores birth, rebirth or the sociopolitical impact of corduroy, I may go spare.
I always though that art had to have something people wanted to look at. Sure that sounds like an anti-art stance but to me if art doesn’t get seen then it’s just stuff.
The hub space is a place flagged as the meeting point for those who wish to enjoy the festival. But surrounding the fine dancing, the interesting films and the outstanding music were ludicrous artistic comments on life in the centre.
Why do hippies have to make stuff out of trash? Make an effort and buy some new material for Pete’s sake. It’s a festival, get a grant.
The festival content was fantastic. Lots of amazing things you don’t get to see everyday.
Intertwined through all of the great stuff at not only this festival but also festivals all over the country are these ludicrous papier mache and recycled raffia constructions that make the event look more commune than communal.
But for all the whinging I do about the “alternative” elements I must confess that without them I’d be lost at a festival. No points of reference. 
So in two weeks, two very different types of ludicrous. And that’s the great thing.
We even have different types of ludicrous to celebrate. So here’s my challenge to you my fellow Australians, sometime this week revel in our ridiculousness.
Wear a hat made out of beer cans or replace your beer at the pub with a breezer without telling your mates why. Something out there.
And if your friends give you grief remember … I’ll be proud.

Back to frontpage the Alice Springs News.